Survey of entity encounter experiences occasioned by inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, interpretation, and enduring effects
Entity encounter experiences frequently result in ontological changes in worldview including the belief in the reality of such entities. Previous descriptions of entity encounter experiences occasioned by DMT (Strassman, 2001, 2008), as well as nondrug alien encounter and abduction experiences, near-death experiences (Hernandez et al., 2018; Jacobs, 2000; Mack, 2000; Ring, 1992;
Winkelman, 2018), religious prophecy experiences (Strassman, 2014), and naturally occurring God encounter experiences (Griffiths et al., 2019), suggest that such experiences often result in changes in world view including the belief in the reality of such entities.
65% of respondents rated the experience as more real than everyday waking consciousness, 96% believed the entity was conscious and intelligent, 75% thought that from their current perspective the entity existed, at least in part, in a different dimension or reality, 72% endorsed that they believed the entity continued to exist after the experience, and 80% indicated that the experience altered their fundamental conception of reality. Less than 10% endorsed that the experience occurred completely within themselves.
The percentage of the group that identified as being atheist or agnostic before the encounter (55%) dropped significantly (to 26%) after the encounter, whereas identification of belief in ultimate reality, higher power, God, or universal divinity increased significantly from 36% to 58%. Significant decreases in identification as atheist have also been reported for both non-drug and psychedelic (psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and ayahuasca) associated God encounter experiences (Griffiths et al., 2019).
Attributions of positive enduring effects:– Similar to a previous survey of both psychedelic-occasioned and naturally occurring God encounter experiences (Griffiths et al., 2019), over one-half of the current sample reported that the encounter was one of the top five or single most personally meaningful, spiritually significant, and psychologically insightful experiences of their entire lives. Furthermore, in both studies, respondents attributed to the experience persisting positive changes in subjective well-being and life satisfaction, life purpose and meaning, social relationships, attitudes about life and self, mood, behavior, spirituality, and attitudes about death.
Positive changes in appreciation for life, self-acceptance, meaning, and spirituality have also been noted in surveys of individuals who reported having broadly defined UFO encounter experiences, including forcible alien abduction as well as more benign encounters with non-human intelligence (Hernandez et al., 2018; Mack, 2000; Ring, 1992) as well as in discussions of religious prophecy experiences (Strassman, 2014) and of the impact of non-ordinary experiences more generally (Kripal, 2019).
Recent research suggests that psychedelic-occasioned increases in psychological flexibility are associated with decreases in symptoms of depression and anxiety (Davis et al., 2020), and that the psychological flexibility model may be a mechanism for therapeutic changes in mental health in clinical trials with psychedelics (Watts and Luoma, 2020). Although psychological flexibility was not directly assessed in the current study, it is plausible that the previously discussed abrupt ontological shift (i.e. “ontological shock”) associated with DMT-occasioned entity encounter experiences also increase psychological flexibility which, in turn, mediate high rates of attribution of enduring positive desirable changes in attitudes, moods and behavior.